Opening the Door to New Light
“O friends! Be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been endowed, neither be neglecnul of your high desIny…. Ye are the stars of the heaven of understanding, the breeze that sIrreth at the break of day, the soe-flowing waters upon which must depend the very life of all men.”
Shoghi Effendi (World Order of Baha’u’llah)
Light in the Doorway
(A Whole-Group Demonstration)
1. Turn the lights off in the room.
2. Ask three people to step outside the door.
3. Turn the lights on. Ask people to note the details they can see more clearly with the lights on.
4. Open the door. Ask the people in the doorway to note the details they can see in the lit room that they could not with the door closed.
5. What happened when we let the light spill out, instead of keeping it to ourselves.
6.Close the door and turn on the light switch in the room. Turn it off and open the door, then on again, opening the door for the light to spill out.
7.Ask the group to define the difference between the three conditions, in which we a) deprived the room of power, b) brought it back and c) opened the door for the light to spill out.
[Elicit that the power was only useful when we found the switch and more useful when we shared the light with others.]
Do you agree with the statement: The kind of power most worth having is not that which deprives others but, rather, that which brings greater light into the lives of more people?
We don’t lose light when we open the door and share it. Have you witnessed examples of this in your own life?
Deepening our understanding—of history, of others’ stories, of our own spiritual potential—expands our light and our radiance in the world.
When do you feel a sense of peace and comfort? What do you think we mean by constructive resilience? How is this different from resistance?
[Break into groups for the next Sharing the Light activity.]
Sharing the Light
(For Middle and Early High School)
We will have a chance to see life through the eyes of Robert Turner this week. We can share light with others in the same way he did, through sincere daily actions, choices, and devotion over a lifetime.
History showcases other bright lights whose qualities helped move their communities forward a small step. We can share Robert Turner’s story and their stories with those who attend the program, by illuminating the lives of personal role models, including Robert Turner, in a living history museum.
Each person may use online resources, books and materials studied in summer school to choose the person they will represent. (See General Resources at the end of this section.)
Write questions and answers about the person. The questions will be pinned to your clothing, so guests can ask you for details about yourself. You may read or recite the answers you have prepared for their questions. (Those who prefer may create an artistic poster presentation for their inspirational character.) Think about someone who opened the doors for others and sculpted history in a positive way.
You will have some time to perfect your presentation and to decorate your living history museum over the course of the week.
Extension Activity: Envisioning a Path of Honor
Black Americans who embrace religion associate their faith with opposing racism at a rate of 75-88 percent. Do you think faith affects other aspects of societal wellbeing?
Young people under thirty are more diverse and saw job losses at a higher rate during the pandemic. While supporting social movements, however, do you think your peers were less likely or more likely to associate change with faith and personal acts of honor?
Multiple Pew polls indicate that the number of religiously unaffiliated people in the U.S. grew by almost 30 million over the decade from 2009 – 2019, and that in the years since, an increasing percentage of young people shifted their sense of right or wrong based on mood or circumstance. While 90% of the older generations surveyed said they try to treat people the way they would want to be treated, fewer than half of the young adults said they believed in the golden rule. One survey went so far as to indicate that almost half had lost the sense that humanity has any purpose. Without a guiding philosophy or moral compass to guide them, their shifting social values became like sails in the wind, blowing them in one direction then another, without ballast, anchor, or advancing motion.
Beyond raising new awareness of the need for racial justice and social reforms, do you think the contrast between spiritual belief systems among those separated by age, ethnicity, geography, culture, or gender holds back the nation’s ability to keep people working together toward a society that welcomes, appreciates and honors the efforts of all?
To preface your discussion, consider the words written by Baha’u’llah in an earlier century:
That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician.
(Gleanings, p. 255)
Do you think the passage suggests that when considered against the backdrop of today’s challenges, a generation’s belief in God--and subsequent action--can greatly influence the wellbeing of a whole society, positively or negatively? If so, discuss reasons or examples.
Charting Transformative Choices
For this activity, each person will need a pencil and a piece of graph paper.
1.Think about your beliefs about humanity and your chances to honor those beliefs. Turn a piece of graph paper on its side. Draw a stick figure on the lower lea. Draw today’s date. Draw a diagonal line from the figure on the lower lea two squares closer to the upper right corner each time you a positive choice in the storyline. Base the choices on your most positive beliefs.
1. Think about your beliefs about humanity and your chances to honor those beliefs. Turn a piece of graph paper on its side. Draw a stick figure on the lower lea. Draw today’s date. Draw a diagonal line from the figure on the lower lea two squares closer to the upper right corner each time you a positive choice in the storyline. Base the choices on your most positive beliefs.
2. The first opportunity is to imagine your role model with spiritual qualities. You think of this person the next time you meet friends at school who ask you to make choice that doesn’t honor your principles. Imagine what that choice might be. Does that role model exhibit spiritual qualities that strengthen your ability to lead others upward? If so, move two diagonal squares up the chart.
3. Think about your best skill, something you enjoy and do well. How could you use the skill to help a stranger? You have just heard a child calling out for help. How will you use that skill to help that person? If you can think of a way, move your pencil two squares up the page.
4. The child you helped grows up to becomes a peacemaker with your help. Because of their own faith and effort, 100 lives are later saved as they apply their own strengths. Move your pencil three squares ahead.
5. Some friends recognize your leadership. They want you to advise them on how to use their time. Some want to form a divisive group. Others want to create a service group to help the poor in the community. Still others want to meet together to find spiritual support group together. Will you help them with one, two or three of these ideas? Make a plan and determine how many squares to move forward if you can sustain it for a year.
6. You have to choose between getting up early to pray before school or going running with a friend who tells you it is a waste of time. Will your friend influence your choice or will you influence your friend’s beliefs? Move your pencil uphill or downhill.
7. Someone drives by and calls out cruel words to you from a car. What will you do or say immediately? What will you do over the coming days? Decide whether your line is leading up or down.
8. Now it’s time to choose your life’s work. What path will you choose to feel like your work is worship? Will you use your mind or voice correct certain challenges in society? Will you create solutions to community problems using your hands? Identify a path and move three squares uphill.
Are you at the top of the page yet? If so, write the date when you would like to gain these spiritual strengths. With everyone in your group working together, each with similar spiritual beliefs but different backgrounds and skills, has a similar trajectory, do you believe that together, you will see more community transformation?
Before you respond, think about your role model. Was it someone whose changes occurred before or long after their lifetime?
Sharing the Light
(For Youth 14-26)
(Carry out as many of these activities and discussion points as time permits over the course of the summer school during this time slot.)
1. In your individual journal, define or revisit your personal belief about humanity and your statement of purpose.
2. Did you define your purpose in terms of not only personal healing but strengthening others, not only bonding with those close to you but creating a sense of belonging for everyone in society? Why or why not?
3. In the group, discuss the distinctions between resistance and resilience. (A point of reference appears in the article published in the Journal of Baha’i Studies 30.3.20. (posted at www.robertcturner.org). Volunteers may want to highlight favorite passages to suggest recording in journals.
4. What attitude did Robert Turner convey that attracted the affection of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá when he embraced Robert?
5. Contrast the concept of Constructive Resilience with Resistance in terms of this scene.
6. Going around the circle, ask for examples of what it means to each person today. List each example on the board.
7. We will guide younger students through an exploration of history in order to prepare them to participate in the transformation of society. How can we and they resist society’s definition of power and carve out a new one?
8. The historical accounts we have of Robert Turner indicate some of the attributes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá may have seen in Robert’s character that contributed to his personal power; for example:
- Immediate recognition of spiritual truth
- Seeing the needs, rather than the faults, of people of every background
- Sincerity without resentment or ego attachment
- Humility combined with the courage to take risks (often in the line of helping or protecting others)
- Devotion to principles as well as to people
- Amiability with everyone
- Pure motives and a radiant, loving heart
9. Create: A quote-based presentation for the summer school’s final program on the life and attributes of Robert Turner.
10. Consider: How could the lives of your peers improve by cultivating constructive resilience rather than by seeking resistance. (The new power sheds light on all.) How will their feelings about their own lives shias as they do?
11. Prepare to Lead: List on the board phrases and comments of encouragement that could shape the mindsets of other students toward constructive resilience. Participants record them in their notebooks for use during and after the workshop.
12. Reflect: Write personal, private goals or commitments regarding ways to model this approach during and after the workshop. Incorporate a personal habit you aspire to acquire.
13.Develop a Common Code: Discuss the definitions of honor (to honor a commitment to self, to honor a person or to live by a code of honor). Prepare to make “honor” a theme that helps youth rise to nobility as they pursue the Open- Door Challenge throughout the week.
14. Planning Together: The term Constructive Resilience implies that we are building something together—lives, communities, broken systems or simply building hope. By the end of the workshop, each facilitator will prepare to help youth from a local area construct a project based on love and honoring the proactive ideals set in motion during the workshop. The last chapter offers tools for that process. The team may use the remaining sections as a guide for all grade levels.
Groups determine whether to represent their living history exhibit with stories, responses, posters or even to incorporate the performing arts. with a skit or a living history exhibit.
For example, they can include musical performances and dance to share the story of how the arts created change but should make sure every participant has a meaningful role to play and does not feel excluded. Limit each group’s story synopsis to a few minutes.
Suggested Preparation for Last Day Program
Performances: The program is student-centered and doesn’t allow time for adult speakers. During a portion of each day, the groups have time to prepare for the program. The facilitators’ goal is to prevent competition and judgement but to encourage universal participation. Even the emcees can be participants, not planners. The group sings a last song, agreed upon based on the songs they experienced in the workshop.
Program Suggestion: The audience could receive a copy of the constitution for a land based on love, written collectively by the students who passed through the doors of history. If not feasible, the final drafts, on 8 x 14 posterboard, could be presented on easels in a table-top display.
Speaker Suggestion: Each area’s youth representatives could describe how they will follow through the door of connecting humanity through the service commitments they have chosen.
The group sings a last song, agreed upon based on the songs they experienced in the workshop.
Resources for Living History Museum Research:
1.The Open the Doors on History section of this program
2.Online research of the youth through name searches
3. Wilmette Institute offers a program on the history of Black women in the Faith that may be helpful for early high school students at the following link.
4.African American Women in the Bahá'í Faith: Intersectionality, Myths and Restorative History
5. Living history participants may also want to draw on the Changemaker series:
- Hazel Scott: A Woman, a Piano, and a Commitment to Justice
- John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: A Man, a Trumpet, and a Journey to Bebop
- Robert Sengstacke Abbot: A Man, a Paper, and a Parade